Showdown at Providence

—Titanic tussle expected as leaders Barbados take on second-placed Guyana Jaguars in their top-of-the-table clash with the winning team favoured to cart off this year’s West Indies Championships.

By Royston Alkins

Today’s pink ball contest between the Guyana Jaguars and Barbados Pride – two of the current regional juggernauts in the West Indies regional four-day championships – presents an opportunity to settle matters regarding the composition of the regional Test side.

 Although Guyana are the five-time reigning defending champions, it is debated in some circles that the absence of a full-strength Barbados unit in the past, would have enabled Guyana to walk away with the previous five crowns.

 There is merit in that argument since the West Indies Test team is sometimes filled with up to seven Barbadian nationals and is constantly on tour during the previous championships. Guyana’s success, however, should not be understated and in sporting parables, “a win is a win.”

 However, today, the two will clash at the Guyana National Stadium Providence and virtually at full strength; Barbados is missing Shai Hope and Roston Chase but there is no shortage of match-winners in their line-up.

Guyana, on the other hand, who are sitting in second on 85.5 points – 30.5 behind leaders Barbados – has brought in reinforcements for this clash. The inclusion of Shimron Hetmyer, Romario Shepherd and Keemo Paul makes things interesting.

 And so the stage is set for a bruising contest. A loss for Guyana will derail their championship hopes for a sixth successive year. Barbados, I’m sure will be heading into today’s contest with a chip on their shoulder.

 They should be looking to prove the West Indies selection panel that they didn’t blunder in investing and branding some of their players to be the face of West Indies cricket.

 I dare say the winner of this contest will not only strengthen their chances of winning the 2020 crown but also leave the park knowing that they are the better team.

Some wins mean more than others and for Leon Johnson and his men, a win against this Barbados unit will be one of the better triumphs during the last six seasons.  Meanwhile, it is not my intention to look too far ahead but should Guyana pull off their sixth successive title this season, then this one may be worth the value simply because of the obstacles they faced in 2020.

 But for Johnson and his men to prevail, a number of players will really have to match the skill of their Bajan counterparts and rebuff their impact.

 Hetmyer, for instance, will be one of Guyana’s trump cards. He along with Johnson, Vishaul Singh, and Chris Barnwell will have to nullify the wicket-taking rage of Chemar Holder (34 wickets), Keon Harding (29) and Kemar Roach (21).

Holder and Harding are among the top five wicket-takers this season and the duo’s impact along with Roach’s have given Barbados plenty of fast bowling points. The resolve of Guyana’s batsmen for this contest is even more important since they cannot afford the indictment of giving away fast bowing points. The addition of Jason Holder also complicates that task.

On the other hand, the skill of Paul, Shepherd and Raymon Reifer and Barnwell will play a major role if Guyana is to be successful.

The seam bowling quartet will need to deliver fast bowling points for Johnson who will have to temper his reliance on left-arm spinner Veerasammy Permaul. Instead, the Guyanese skipper will have to trust his fast bowlers – the situation requires it.

 The Guyanese bowling unit will be comforted in the fact that only Kyle Mayers – the championship-leading run-scorer with 630 runs – and Shayne Moseley (475) are the only Bajans in the top 15 run-getters this season.

Skipper Kraigg Brathwaite along with test incumbent Shamarh Brooks has struggled, while Shane Dowrich, Jonathan Carter and Justin Greaves have failed to make their mark. Roach has a better batting average outside of Mayers and Moseley. As said before, the outcome of this contest goes beyond its impact to define this year’s winner. (Stabroek News)